When a former colleague recently wrote to me asking to recommend him on LinkedIn, it was the second time I’d been asked to do such a favour in the past couple of weeks.
I’ve also been asked by businesses something like 200 times to write an online review or recommendation on sites such as LinkedIn and Facebook. Everyone from hairdressers to restaurants have become social media savvy, but I’m now starting to consider these recommendations as a new form of tipping.
Back to the colleague and his request: I’m assuming this guy asked numerous other people the same favour, considering we barely talked during the time we worked in the same company.
The fact that people ask for it, and do it so much, both annoys and puzzles me. Why do people ask for such a recommendation and what value does it add to their profile?
Brands have developed a whole new science about how to ask for and receive a satisfactory product review to the point that they advise implementing a reward system.
But regarding personal recommendations, while checking the LinkedIn profiles of most of the people I actually would recommend, they seemed to care very little about them. And having known them when they were going through professionally tough times, I don’t recall them asking for any online recommendations.
But I also can’t dismiss the possibility that my former colleague is among the 201.8 million unemployed people recorded worldwide last year, according to the International Labour Organisation’s report The Global Employment Trends 2014: The Risk of a Jobless Recovery.
In that case, a minute or two of my time could keep him away from joining the group of 23 million people who became discouraged and no longer looked for jobs in 2013, which was stated in the same report.
That made me feel guilty, especially knowing the thought process of most of today’s recruiters. It's no secret that they check online results via search engines to learn more about a person and their background and heavily rely on what they see. So I don’t blame him for asking for a recommendation but it still doesn’t feel right.
Then I happened to stumble across a photo of two of the most famous (now former) job seekers - Jan Koum and Brian Acton, cofounders of the messaging system WhatsApp.
Have you ever checked Koum’s LinkedIn profile? It’s funny, right? Not the fact that you’ve just checked it – I know, it’s an old joke – but what you have just seen.
His cheeky profile may be evidence that LinkedIn recommendations are not that important – he did go on to make $19bn. Or it may just explain why Facebook refused to hire him when he applied in 2009, leaving him unemployed and with all the time in the world to develop WhatsApp, which ironically Facebook then acquired in February this year.
However, both Koum and Acton have given a significant number of detailed recommendations of people they’ve worked with, which makes me feel a bit embarrassed to consider not helping out my former colleague.
What do you think? If you support providing recommendations, spend the next few minutes and write a couple of positive lines about your former or current colleagues, no matter whether you’ve been asked to or not.
Otherwise, with Dubai's entrepreneurial spirit alive and going from strength to strength, we might be featuring them in Arabian Business StartUp magazine sooner or later.